How to choose developers for a SaaS project

Entrepreneurs and businesses are making significant investments in Software as a Service (SaaS). While these initiatives are predicated on a strong idea, they often lack the follow-through needed to succeed.

“The key thing is to build a solid product that fills a clearly defined niche,” says Jeff Schafer, Chief Revenue Officer and Digital Strategist at Metisentry. “The build-it-and-they-will-come model doesn’t work. Businesses need a solid operational plan that follows the launch, as well as a partnership with a team of knowledgeable people working behind the scenes to keep the business and technology innovation on track.”

Smart Business spoke with Schafer about what to look for in a SaaS development team.

What should companies look for in a development team?

The first thing to consider is knowledge. Find a team that has five or more years building SaaS products and have their name on products that are out in the market making money. The latter is a big differentiator and it’s overlooked. Developers, instead, are chosen because the client likes the development, marketing or product team, or they feel comfortable because the team understands the concept.

Carefully consider the success of the products the development team has built in the past. Otherwise, you can start planning your Version 2.0 launch with a more qualified team.

Make sure the team has a project manager with 10 or more years experience at the helm. Don’t settle for less.

Work with a development team that is skilled at security and regulated technology. Ask if they are familiar with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards compliance or HIPAA compliance. Developers who have had to meet those security standards, and can manage the associated audits and can implement the necessary security hardening tactics, can conceivably build a program that keeps any information secure. Those who haven’t had to overcome such security obstacles could leave the program vulnerable to attack and the client will pay for that in the future.

Also, clients need to make sure they’re not sold the ‘A’ team but assigned the ‘B’ team. It’s common that a team will bring in its top strategists and developers to the initial meeting and then assign the junior developers the job with the promise of senior-level oversight. Consider leadership abilities and the composition of the whole production team before a project begins.

What are some red flags companies should look out for when choosing a development team?

  • Development teams have a tendency to think they’re creating a product for themselves and lose sight of the needs of the audience. Make sure the purpose and end-user is clearly defined.
  • Sometimes the scope of the product is unnecessarily widened — there are 40 features that can be built, but only five are necessary. Including too many features risks overwhelming users.
  • Have a plan for what happens after launch in terms of marketing and support. That’s usually best handled by a combination of an industry evangelist and a product manager.

Who are the critical members of a development team?

A production manager coordinates and defines what the product will and won’t do. They manage the budget for product development and post launch operations, keeping the big picture in mind, and ‘herd the cats’ to make sure the product is delivering on the promises of the visionary.

The visionary is the face of the company who defines to the public what makes the product unique and connects it to the audience. They come up with the concept, maintain the message and enhance the brand. This requires charisma to create a connection to the concept that people can relate to and continue to evolve that message because consumers are fickle, so what’s unique one day isn’t unique the next.

Many products flop because the development team wasn’t capable of executing through all stages of a product’s creation and rollout. Vetting the team is a crucial step toward preventing that from happening.

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